This is the story of a journey that I am currently on. It started with my concerns as a parent and led me to an ongoing journey that connected my past as a martial arts teacher, to my present as a father and a professional leadership coach, to my future as a catalyst to bring about a brighter future, through transforming the family culture, one family at a time.
I am a father of two kids, a boy, and a girl. My 8 years old girl, Sara, is a very sweet girl. She is extremely sensitive and loves to be told that she did a good job. I love this girl so much, to the extent that 8 years ago I decided to move for her, from Egypt – a country where I was well known in, loved and extremely successful to Canada, a country where I had to start over and reinvent myself. Yet this is a story for another time.
Sometimes at the beginning of this year, I noticed Sara showing few alarming symptoms. She had too many emotional outbursts, lack of confidence, wanting to please others all the time, not comfortable with confrontation and too aggressive with her mother and brother.
Being the coach that I am, I observed her for some time and reflected a lot about her, and of course, like any good parent, I found a way to make it my fault. In the last two years, I was traveling a lot for my work as a leadership coach and mentor for coaches: “I was not there for her as much as I should have!” I blamed myself.
Intellectually, I knew it was not my fault, yet my heart was giving me grief about it. From what I learned about myself, I knew that I would never survive my troubled heart for long, so I decided to do something about it.
If you are a coach or ever worked with one, you most probably know by now that the blood of coaches is composed of white blood cells, red blood cells and… questions! We live to ask questions – whenever we feel stuck, a question is our answer.
So, since I felt VERY stuck, I asked myself MANY questions:
Q: What do I want?
- I want to help Sara overcome these symptoms. Not only that: I want to help her thrive, I am an experienced coach after all (my ego said)
- I want to stay with my family more and travel less, yet without impacting my income too much (my wife concerns)
- I want my heart to be at ease (my everlasting goal)
Q: From a coaching perspective, what does Sara need besides more quality time with her Dad?
- To learn how to manage emotions
- To develop her self-confidence
- To gain resilience when confronting stressful situations
- To express herself fully and listen profoundly
Q: How can I achieve all the above for Sara and for myself?
After contemplation, I realized that Sara would need kids her age to practice with, otherwise she would never be motivated enough to develop such complex skills. So, I decided to create a program for children. This way I can help her and work at the same time!
Q: What theme and goals should I choose for this program?
I realised that the majority of the skills that Sara needed were leadership skills (developing leaders is what I do after all), but I couldn’t possibly introduce such skills to Sara with the same way that I do with adults. I had to make it more fun, so I decided to use martial arts and gamification as the fun instrument to transmit the needed skills to the kids. (Thank god for all of the back-breaking years in which I have worked as a martial arts teacher with 3 years old and older children!). This way the program would be both fun and transformative.
At this point, the program theme and goals became clear to me.
“leadership skills for children and youth through martial arts”.
Expression, to express oneself fully and with clarity
Determination in setting goals and achieving them
Sports & Martial arts foundation and practice
I was in awe when I noticed that the first letters of each goal would give the acronym SEEDS. “Wow!”, I thought, and everything became crystal clear and made perfect sense.
The name of the program is SEEDS and its mission is sowing the SEEDS of leadership in children and youth. I even came up with the slogan “sowing SEEDS for brighter future”. Does it show that I had a lot of fun creating this program?
Q: What should I do now?
I am a visual guy, so I thought that it would be cool to create some kind of a logo or an illustration to better describe the program to people who are visual like me. I am no artist, yet fortunately, I am a computer nerd who loves transforming unrelated pieces into one cohesive piece that communicates a message, which is exactly what we do in coaching, isn’t it?
After many cups of green tea and dried fruits for my sweet tooth, this was the result:
Not bad! At least for the current needs.
Q: Where and how should I start?
I prepared the outline of the program, created a proposal, a webpage on my website and contacted my children’s school to offer a trial session to Sara’s class. Luckily, the school principal recognised the value that such program can add to the children’s education and welcomed the idea that it may be an after-school activity. Just for the fun of it take a moment to check the webpage that I designed for SEEDS here: https://kunacademy.com/seeds/
The BIG Day!
The trial session.
I prepared a PowerPoint presentation, exchanged the corporate suit with my old martial arts outfit and went early to prepare the space that the school provided to accommodate around 15 children. To my surprise, I was more nervous waiting in that room than on delivering my last program to the leadership team of a colossal company with a value of hundreds of millions.
I had to conjure all of my mindfulness techniques to calm down and ground myself.
Sara and her classmates arrived very excited and, of course, she came running to give me a big hug while looking at her friends all proud: her daddy had grown up and become a TEACHER!
The first session was about presence: how to understand it, to become aware of it and cultivate it. Amazingly, thanks to the games and martial arts practices, it took the kids less time to understand and demonstrate what presence is, than the time it takes a sophisticated leadership team to absorb such concept in a meeting room.
We finished the lesson and the kids were ecstatic. The real test, though, was to see if enough parents would register their children to start the program. It was, after all, a new activity that they have never heard of before.
Gladly, enough parents were impressed with what the children reported, which allowed us to start the program in the following week.
Fast-forward 8 sessions, one session a week.
Sara and her classmates surprised me with a massive shift in their way of being. Sara became more confident and comfortable with confrontation, her emotional intelligence greatly improved, she became less aggressive and more expressive. She even learned to say no and express her opinion without obsessing on the possibility that people will not be pleased with her.
In this funny video, you can watch the kids reporting about what they have got from SEEDS
The results were overwhelmingly positive with minimal effort, which of course led me to ask yet another question,
Q: How to go forward from here?
Although the children acquired new skills and demonstrated healthy change, this change may not last for long because of two main challenges.
- Lack of sufficient practice will inevitably lead the children to regress back to old habits.
- Uninviting family and school culture: if the parents and teachers are not aware of the foundational skills behind the healthy change of their children, and of the language that was used to transmit these skills, they will not be able to motivate the children to embody and improve these skills.
At this point I entered a mad scientist mood of hyper creation, I felt possessed by SEEDS and the program took a life of its own.
To help children overcome the lack of practice challenge, I adjusted the SEEDS outline to be delivered in two offers:
- The first one is SEEDS 101 foundations, designed to help children and youth acquire SEEDS skills within 8 sessions;
- The second offer is SEEDS embodiment and practice, designed to help children and youth practice and deepen the skills learned until they become ingrained in their way of being. This part of the program can be delivered on a weekly basis for a year as an after-school activity.
Overcoming the first challenge. DONE!
To help the children overcome the uninviting culture challenge, I needed to create a shift within the culture itself, so I created SEEDS-Adults-Edition, as a spinoff of SEEDS, with the objective of introducing parents, teachers, and caregivers to the core skills of SEEDS, in one intensive 3 hours workshop.
To take it even further, I created SEEDS Coach certification program for parents, teachers, and caregivers who would like to be equipped with the necessary coaching skills to professionally help children and youth achieve the SEEDS goals and benefits, as a Professional SEEDS Coach.
You can read more about SEEDS (Adults Edition) here: https://kunacademy.com/seeds-adults-editions/
Overcoming the second challenge. DONE!